US lawmakers are expected to approve the sale of Super Tucano light attack and trainer aircraft to Nigeria in the coming weeks.
Former President Barack Obama’s administration originally agreed on the sale, but delayed it after incidents including the Nigerian Air Force’s bombing of a refugee camp in January that killed 90 to 170 civilians.
“We’ve been told that the administration is going to go forward with that transaction,” a congressional aide is reported by Reuters as saying.
Notification has not been sent to the US Congress yet but is, according to Associated Press sources, due in the coming weeks. Up to 12 Embraer Super Tucanos will be acquired, if Congress approves the deal, worth around $600 million. Although the Super Tucano is manufactured by Brazil’s Embraer, there is a separate production line in Jacksonville, Florida. This was established in conjunction with Sierra Nevada Corporation as part of a deal to sell the type to Afghanistan.
A senior Nigerian military official said on Monday that the sale would go ahead, Reuters reports. “Yes, I can confirm to you that the US has agreed to sell some fighter jets (sic) to us to support in the ongoing insurgency war,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“The ongoing negotiation is not only in the supply of fighter jets but also assistance in training, surveillance and military intelligence,” the official added.
The US congressional source said rights concerns remain, despite support for the sale from some lawmakers. There are also questions about whether Nigeria will be able to pay the full $600 million for the aircraft, equipment, training and support.
U.S. officials said Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari raised frustration with delays in the sale in a phone call with Trump in February.
In February this year the Nigerian Air Force said the Brazilian government had approved the sale of three second hand Super Tucano aircraft to Nigeria.
“The acquisition of this aircraft by the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) is expected to boost its operational capabilities in tackling insurgence and militancy in the country,” the NAF said in a statement on 8 February, after announcing the approval of the sale of three ‘serviceable’ ‘pre-owned’ Super Tucanos.
The NAF added that the Brazilian government had authorized its Air Force to transfer the aircraft to Embraer Defence and Security, for onward delivering to the NAF.
Nigeria has a strong requirement for an aircraft like the Super Tucano as it battles the domestic Boko Haram insurgency and also deploys combat aircraft to foreign countries on peacekeeping operations.
The Super Tucano can be used for training, surveillance or attack. It can be armed with two wing-mounted machine guns and can carry up to 1 550 kg of weapons.
Embraer has recorded a number of orders for its Super Tucano from African countries, which see it as a low cost light attack aircraft that can also be used as a trainer. On the continent, the Super Tucano has been ordered by Angola, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Mali, Ghana and Senegal.